Bellator MMA will be returning to the Santa Ana Star Center in New Mexico on July 31st for Bellator 97 and the card will be headlined by Ben Askren defending the Bellator welterweight title against season seven tournament winner Andrey Koreshkov.
This will be the second event of the 2013 Bellator Summer Series and it will once again take place on a Wednesday with a special start time of 7 p.m. ET on Spike TV.
Along with the title fight, the main card will also feature the season eight welterweight tournament final as Douglas Lima meets Ben Saunders and a featherweight bout as Patricio Pitbull meets Rob Emerson.
“Our first event in Albuquerque was a huge success,” Bellator MMA Chairman and CEO Bjorn Rebney said. “With a Welterweight Title fight, the conclusion of our Welterweight Tournament, and a stacked fight card top to bottom, we’re looking at another huge night of fights July 31st live on Spike.”
Askren (11-0) will be making his fourth Bellator title defense and this will be his second title defense of 2013. He defended the title at Bellator 86 earlier this year against Karl Amoussou and won the fight at the end of the third round due to a doctors stoppage.
“I’m really looking forward to getting back into that cage and putting on a show,” Askren said. “I feel like I’ve continued to mature and get better in every one of my fights, and July 31st should be no different. I don’t think Andrey has any ability to stop my wrestling and ground attack, so this will be another successful title defense.”
Koreshkov (13-0) made his Bellator debut last year and won back to back fights by TKO/KO before being placed into the season seven tournament. He defeated former champion Lyman Good in the final to win his title shot.
“I’ll be 110% ready for this fight,” Koreshkov said. “I’ll make sure that Askren’s tactics to put everybody in the audience to sleep won’t work this time. Instead, I’ll keep everybody entertained by putting him to sleep.”
The season eight welterweight tournament final between Lima and Saunders was scheduled to take place earlier this year, but the fight had to be pushed back due to a hand injury suffered by Lima.
This will be a rematch of their season five tournament final as Lima (24-5) won on that night by knockout and went on to face Askren for the title. Lima has recovered from his hand injury and will be looking for another finish inside the Bellator cage.
“It’s an honor to fight a fighter like Ben again,” Lima said. “With the time off I’ve been able to fully heal to 100% and like always, will be looking to finish the fight early.”
Saunders (16-5) has won four of his last five since losing to Lima at Bellator 57 and two of his last three wins have come by TKO/KO in the first round.
“Quite simply, it’s about damn time Douglas and I get back into the cage,” Saunders said. “July 31st can’t get here soon enough. Can’t wait.”
Tickets for the event are on sale now and can be purchased at ComcastTix.com or by visiting the Santa Ana Star Center Box Office with tickets starting at just $25 dollars.